Electrical contracting business and electrician fined $44,800 over electrocution

A Bunbury electrical contracting business and one of its employees have been fined a total of $44,800 over the 2013 electrocution of an 18-year-old trades assistant in the roof space of a home in East Bunbury.

JCW Electrical Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and was fined $38,000 in the Bunbury Magistrates Court today.

Licensed electrician Dale Francis Mortley pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care and, by that failure, causing the death of the trades assistant.  Mortley was fined $6,800.

Jayden Zappelli (18) was electrocuted on February 8, 2013 in the roof space of a private residence in East Bunbury.  He was acting as trades assistant to Mr Mortley, and was not himself licensed to perform electrical work.

Mr Zappelli was in a small area of roof space, into which Mr Mortley was feeding electrical cable through a conduit in the lounge room of the house.

He was electrocuted when he came into contact with a copper gas pipe while holding an exposed conductor on the cable.  The stripped conductor had been taped, but the tape had been loosened as it travelled up through the conduit and the wires were exposed.

Mr Mortley had relied on removing fuse wedges in the meter box to isolate and turn off parts of the power supply, rather than turning the electricity supply off at the mains.

He used a volt stick rather than a multimeter to test the circuit involved in the incident, and volt sticks are known in the industry to be prone to giving false negative results.

The court heard that Mr Mortley failed to conclusively ensure that any circuit being worked on by himself and Mr Zappelli was isolated.

The court also heard that JCW failed to ensure that the mains were isolated before Mr Zappelli went into the roof.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today the case was a stark reminder of the care that needed to be taken when working with electricity.

“This tragic incident should serve as a reminder of the extreme importance of checking and re-checking that the circuits being worked on are indeed not live,” Mr McCulloch said.

“When working with or around electrical circuits, any assumption could be a fatal one.

“The case also sends a clear message to employers that electrical work should not under any circumstances be performed by assistants or anyone else who is not properly trained and qualified to undertake the work safely.

“Further, we need to be very conscious that working in roof spaces presents a host of risks, and strict safe systems of work need to be in place, especially when electricity is also involved.

“In most cases, there is just no reason not to turn off the mains before entering a roof space.  This is something that applies to many trades such as pest controllers, insulation installers, air conditioning technicians and so on, not just electricians.”

Further information on working safely with electricity and in roof spaces can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307 877 or EnergySafety on 6251 1900, or on the websites at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au or www.energysafety.wa.gov.au.


Media contact: Catherine Gildersleeve 6251 1930 or 0411 258 721

Building and Energy / WorkSafe
Media release
06 Feb 2015

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